The Difference

I was asked this question last week:

God is life. God breathed life into us at the beginning. The human race became the living dead in the garden. The good news is this: God, in the form of Jesus, came back for us. Jesus came back that we might have the life of God in us. No one else is coming back — not Buddha, not Mohamed, not Confucius — no one else.

Both the atheist and the Christian are human (which is our common ground). I know Christians have to deal with failed marriages, death of a child, sickness, financial hardships, rebellious children, etc. as I assume atheists do.

What is different about the God life in Christians? It obviously doesn’t keep bad things from happening.

I’m sure I’m missing something obvious.

This was my reply (somewhat expanded for this blog):

The difference is eternal life.

Consider four levels of existence:

Rock: Existence without life.

Tree: Life without awareness.

Bird: Life with awareness.

Human: Life with awareness and aware of it.

The awareness of our awareness is the evidence and perception of the spirit.

Try this experiment: Take a moment and become aware of your surroundings. Now think about your awareness; become aware of your awareness. This second level of awareness is related to your essence as a spiritual being.

As I write this I am looking out a window. I see a large rock. It exists. I see a tree. It is alive. I see a bird. It is alive and aware of both the rock and the tree. I see all three and can take another step and see myself within this framework of existence and eventually this evokes the question of WHY? Why do I exist? Why am I aware? Why am I here?

It is the awareness of our awareness that exposes the vanity of life without a vital relationship with the source of this transcendent awareness (God). Just ask Solomon. Without a relationship with the source of meaning our existence becomes meaningless no matter how aware we are of pleasant surroundings. The only conclusion is that existence is “meaninglessness of meaninglessness, all is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Without a relationship with the Father of Spirits (the source of both transcendent awareness and meaning), our awareness of awareness eventually becomes tormenting.

This is why awareness of awareness among atheists almost always leads to despair and depression and makes suicide look like the only rational human action. Schopenhauer and Tolstoy understood this. (Tolstoy’s A Confession is a fascinating account of how he came to salvation through a quest for meaning that led him to the brink of suicide and then finally to faith in Christ.)

So what is the difference between the God-life and the God-less life? Life! Real life, true life, abundant life, eternal life, is not good things happening on the outside (though God does bless us); rather, true life is knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. (John 17:3)

Good stuff happening can be the life of a dog. If life is simply having pleasant surroundings and being aware of these pleasant surroundings, but aware of nothing else, well…this can be the life of a dog. And we are made for a higher level of living (as evidenced by the fact that we have the capacity to be aware of our awareness).

As Blaise Pascal said, “the heart of man is a God-shaped void that nothing of this world can fill.”

The difference is that the void, the emptiness, the vanity, the meaninglessness is filled by Jesus Christ.

“And of His fullness we have all received and grace for grace.” (John 1:16)

Of course we must cultivate the inner life to become aware of this fullness. To reduce the God-life to simply good things happening to us is to reduce life to a “happy animal” level. These are the people who are content to choose the blue pill. Their reward is the ignorant bliss of a dumb beast with a full belly. But those who don’t run away from a transcendent awareness are those who choose the red pill of truth.

“You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about? It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” -Morpheus, The Matrix

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.” -Jesus (John 8:31-32)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” -Jesus (John 14:6)

A rock, a tree, a dog can never be truly free because they are incapable of knowing transcendent truth.

The person who is aware of transcendent reality but has no vital relationship with the source of this transcendent reality can never be free from his despair (he can only hope to forget it from time to time).

So humans have three choices:

1. Never cultivate awareness of awareness and live as a stupid animal. Like a happy cow too dumb to ever find any meaning…but hey, at least the grass is green and tasty.

2. Cultivate awareness of awareness without finding the meaning of it all…and despair.

3. Cultivate awareness of awareness and connect with the Father of Spirits through the One who is the way, the truth and the life. This is eternal life. This is the difference.

The extent of the difference is the difference between Heaven and Hell. Although at first the difference may only be perceived as subtle, in eternity the difference becomes infinite.